Reading the 20th Century discussion

Wigs on the Green
This topic is about Wigs on the Green
30 views
Moderator's Choice > Wigs on the Green by Nancy Mitford (February 2019)

Comments Showing 1-50 of 102 (102 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1 3

Nigeyb | 9449 comments Mod
Our February 2019 theme is humour.


Many consider February to be the most depressing month of the year so what better than a group read we hope will make us smile, chuckle, laugh and maybe even guffaw.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons won the group read poll

To accompany this book we have chosen....

Wigs on the Green by Nancy Mitford....

Nancy Mitford’s most controversial novel, unavailable for decades, is a hilarious satirical send-up of the political enthusiasms of her notorious sisters, Unity and Diana.

Written in 1934, early in Hitler’s rise, Wigs on the Green lightheartedly skewers the devoted followers of British fascism. The sheltered and unworldy Eugenia Malmain is one of the richest girls in England and an ardent supporter of General Jack and his Union Jackshirts. World-weary Noel Foster and his scheming friend Jasper Aspect are in search of wealthy heiresses to marry; Lady Marjorie, disguised as a commoner, is on the run from the Duke she has just jilted at the altar; and her friend Poppy is considering whether to divorce her rich husband. When these characters converge with the colorful locals at a grandly misconceived costume pageant that turns into a brawl between Pacifists and Jackshirts, madcap farce ensues. Long suppressed by the author out of sensitivity to family feelings, Wigs on the Green can now be enjoyed by fans of Mitford’s superbly comic novels.



This discussion will open in February 2019


message 2: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 30, 2019 11:15PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb | 9449 comments Mod
I know a few people have already started reading this so let's open it up now.


Here's to a most satisfying and convivial discussion


Nigeyb | 9449 comments Mod
I'm really looking forward to reading this however I am going to read Cold Comfort Farm (our Feb 2019 Group Read) first, and then read this one. Really looking forward to your reaction and comments.


Susan | 9889 comments Mod
This was a re-read for me. I read this alongside her other novels, previously, when I binge read them one after the other. I wasn't so impressed then, but I really enjoyed my second read.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4542 comments Mod
I'm about a third of the way through and finding it very funny so far - Jasper Aspect (what a name) is hilarious, and there are some great one-liners.

I will be interested to see if more of a satirical flavour develops in terms of Mitford's portrayal of the "Union Jackshirts".


Nigeyb | 9449 comments Mod
Judy wrote: "I will be interested to see if more of a satirical flavour develops in terms of Mitford's portrayal of the "Union Jackshirts". "

I am fascinated by books written in the 1930s which engage with the rise of fascism. Obviously then no one knew how things would play out and plenty of intelligent people saw it as a viable and sensible way of governing a country. That said, I often get the impression that many (perhaps most?), at least in Britain, found it faintly absurd and a source of humour.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4542 comments Mod
Has anyone read any good non-fiction about the rise of fascism and how it was perceived in other countries at the time - with awareness rising as many people started to leave Germany to escape Hitler and told their stories?


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4542 comments Mod
Even aside from the politics, I can certainly see why Unity Mitford might have been offended by her portrayal as the extremely eccentric and childish teenager Eugenia Malmains, who seems to be constantly torn between whether to cause a political insurrection or hurry home for tea.


Roman Clodia | 4931 comments Mod
I enjoyed this in a frothy light-hearted way - but can easily see why Mitford didn't want it re-published once the true nature and consequences of fascism had been revealed.

It's quite prescient, all the same, on the importance of ritual and spectacle when it comes to political movements, and the pageant is a clever comment on the parades that embody ideologies whether Hitler's Olympic displays in Munich, say, or the Red Square parades - or, indeed, current displays in North Korea, for example.


Nigeyb | 9449 comments Mod
Judy wrote: "Has anyone read any good non-fiction about the rise of fascism..."

Hangover Square is a corker


message 11: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4542 comments Mod
Nigeyb wrote: "Judy wrote: "Has anyone read any good non-fiction about the rise of fascism..."

Hangover Square is a corker"


I do want to read that, but isn't it a novel? Or is it closely based on fact?


message 12: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 31, 2019 02:06AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb | 9449 comments Mod
It is indeed a novel. Sorry Judy. Not paying attention. There must be some wonderful factual books on the rise of Fascism but I haven't read any of them.


message 13: by Jill (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 620 comments I read Highland Fling and Christmas Pudding neither of which I liked . This one was slightly better, but I don't find any of them humourous just boring. I can understand that this was quite shocking at the time , her sister being wife to Mosley, but obviously not sense of humour.


Nigeyb | 9449 comments Mod
Wow. Well done for persevering Jill. Are you now done with Nancy M? You've yet to read her two most celebrated novels but, then again, if you didn't like the three you have read then perhaps she's just not for you.

Do you find all examples of what might be described as a light and frothy writing style (see also P.G. Wodehouse) boring? If not, what would be examples of work you have enjoyed in a similar vein?


message 15: by Jill (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 620 comments I do enjoy Wodehouse, but maybe not as much now as I did when I read them in my early teens. As you have said Mitford's more celebrated books are yet to come, and I shall probably give them a try, but will leave them for a while. I suppose my sense of humour has changed over the years along with lots of other things.


message 16: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 31, 2019 03:27AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb | 9449 comments Mod
Jill wrote: "Mitford's more celebrated books are yet to come, and I shall probably give them a try..."


Hurrah. I applaud your ongoing perseverance. I would doubtless have waved the white flag after not enjoying just one.

Jill wrote: "I do enjoy Wodehouse, but maybe not as much now as I did when I read them in my early teens"

Thanks Jill. My love of PGW has remained constant with, perhaps, a slight increase in enthusiasm since my teens (many decades ago now).

Out of curiosity, what examples are there of books that really make you laugh? Or indeed writers.


Roman Clodia | 4931 comments Mod
I would say that Mitford's most famous books - The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate - have got much more heart than Wigs. They're witty rather than humorous, if that makes sense, but are also moving and touching.


message 18: by Jill (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 620 comments I have cried with laughter at Reginald Hill's Daziel and Pascoe books, and I also find Mick Herron's Jackson Lamb very funny along with other characters from his books. Occasionally something unexpected in a book will have me chuckling or smiling but not necessarily because it is supposed to.


message 19: by Nigeyb (last edited Jan 31, 2019 04:50AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb | 9449 comments Mod
I've not read any D&P books though do remember the UK TV series.


Mick Herron is funny but doesn't make me chuckle in the way PGW does. Generally it's Jackson Lamb's witticisms and scathing put downs that make me react.

Talking of which, I now have a copy of The Drop: A Slough House Novella to read soon. It will help assuage my yearning for a new Slough House novel.


Susan | 9889 comments Mod
The Drop is brilliant, Nigeyb.

As for Wigs, I believe that Nancy Mitford was persuaded to cut out quite a lot - particularly about Mosley (or Captain Jack), who never really appears in this.

I loved the House of Lords, replicated in the country, as an old people's home for elderly peers!


message 21: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1186 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "I would say that Mitford's most famous books - The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate - have got much more heart than Wigs. They're witty rather than humorous, i..."

I read those about the time that they were on PBS. I enjoyed them. They were published here in one volume.


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 395 comments This was fun but I didn't find it as much fun as her other books. I did like Christmas Pudding and Highland Fling also Pigeon Pie. In this one, though I didn't seem to take to any of the characters at all. But I did enjoy the Wodehousian bits like the dip in the duck pond that poor artist (the name slips my mind) had to go through.


message 23: by Lady Clementina (last edited Feb 01, 2019 03:40AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 395 comments Susan wrote: "The Drop is brilliant, Nigeyb.

As for Wigs, I believe that Nancy Mitford was persuaded to cut out quite a lot - particularly about Mosley (or Captain Jack), who never really appears in this.

I l..."

That bit (House of Lords replication) was also fun.

May be the edits interfered with the fun of the book as you say.


Roman Clodia | 4931 comments Mod
Oh yes, the House of Lords was the funniest bit :)


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 395 comments Nigeyb wrote: "Jill wrote: "Mitford's more celebrated books are yet to come, and I shall probably give them a try..."


Hurrah. I applaud your ongoing perseverance. I would doubtless have waved the white flag aft..."


Mine too- enjoyment of Wodehouse I mean-but I don't seem to roll over with laughter as I did with one or two of his books.


message 26: by Nigeyb (last edited Feb 01, 2019 04:45AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb | 9449 comments Mod
Lady Clementina wrote: "I don't seem to roll over with laughter as I did with one or two of P.G. Wodehouse books."

You mean Nancy Mitford doesn't you laugh like Wodehouse?

Or that Wodehouse no longer makes you laugh as you once did?

What else makes you laugh now? Books and writers wise.


message 27: by Lady Clementina (last edited Feb 01, 2019 06:31AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 395 comments Nigeyb wrote: "Lady Clementina wrote: "I don't seem to roll over with laughter as I did with one or two of P.G. Wodehouse books."

You mean Nancy Mitford doesn't you laugh like Wodehouse?

Or that W..."


Yes sorry I realise I made a rather confusing statement there. Mitford makes me laugh but not roll over with laughter or even tear up with it like Wodehouse does. Wodehouse doesn't do this in all his books, but there are a few that did that for me.

Re what makes me laugh now-don't really know. I mean I love reading Henry Cecil, also Wodehouse of course, even Just William--Anne of Green Gables (the first couple of books) also the Treasure Seekers (Nesbit) are ones that definitely bring a smile to my face, but it's been a while since I read a book that has really made me burst out laughing or even cry for that matter (the rabbits in Watership Down did, Oscar Wilde's the Happy Prince did, and the end of the House at Pooh Corner as well.)


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 395 comments Speaking of Wodehousian moments in the book, the whole Union Jackshirts were very much that too- though she kept talking of the Captain, I kept expecting a Roderick Spode to turn up or be the Captain.


message 29: by Jill (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 620 comments Lady Clementina wrote: "Nigeyb wrote: "Lady Clementina wrote: "I don't seem to roll over with laughter as I did with one or two of P.G. Wodehouse books."

You mean Nancy Mitford doesn't you laugh like Wodeho..."


Yes I think quite a few of the children's books do make me smile. When I was at infant school our headmistress used to read The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett and My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards in our assemblies and had the whole school laughing . I have wondered about going back to these to see if they would have that effect now


Nigeyb | 9449 comments Mod
Lady Clementina wrote: "Yes sorry I realise I made a rather confusing statement there. Mitford makes me laugh but not roll over with laughter or even tear up with it like Wodehouse does. Wodehouse doesn't do this in all his books, but there are a few that did that for me.

Re what makes me laugh now-don't really know. I mean I love reading Henry Cecil, also Wodehouse of course, even Just William--Anne of Green Gables (the first couple of books) also the Treasure Seekers (Nesbit) are ones that definitely bring a smile to my face, but it's been a while since I read a book that has really made me burst out laughing or even cry for that matter (the rabbits in Watership Down did, Oscar Wilde's the Happy Prince did, and the end of the House at Pooh Corner as well.)"


Thanks for the clarification Lady C. I'm in full agreement.

Yes indeed, many a children's book still makes me smile

I reread a Geoffrey Willans a few years ago - still wonderful, and an Anthony Buckeridge Jennings book which also provoked many a chuckle.


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 395 comments Jill wrote: "Lady Clementina wrote: "Nigeyb wrote: "Lady Clementina wrote: "I don't seem to roll over with laughter as I did with one or two of P.G. Wodehouse books."

You mean Nancy Mitford doesn..."


I love both those- I read One End Street only a couple of years ago, and Naughty Little Sister also as an adult (though it was one of my mother's favourite childhood books).


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 395 comments Nigeyb wrote: "Lady Clementina wrote: "Yes sorry I realise I made a rather confusing statement there. Mitford makes me laugh but not roll over with laughter or even tear up with it like Wodehouse does. Wodehouse ..."

I am yet to meet Molesworth and Jennings. Must remedy that soon.


Susan | 9889 comments Mod
I loved My Naughty Little Sister and so did my children, when younger. I always associate her with Milly Molly Mandy, probably because they are around the same length of story and also favourites.


message 34: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4542 comments Mod
I've just read the section about Anne-Marie's cocktail party, and, as I'm not well-versed in opera, was puzzled by the reference to her "playing Pagliacci" when she is laughing and being cheerful although her special guests haven't arrived yet. I just Googled this and I see it means playing the clown while secretly sad.

I feel the book has become a bit less funny with all the romantic entanglements in this section, though still an enjoyable read.


message 35: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4542 comments Mod
I'm getting towards the end, and have been laughing over the impossibly snobbish Lady Chalford's agonising over who to invite to her party:

"Sir Archibold and Lady Faircombe, poor things, have a divorced daughter who runs a dress-shop in London - not very nice, is it? Major Montgomerie's son was expelled from Eton - in my day when such a disgrace fell upon a family it was usual for them to go and settle in some colony."


Nigeyb | 9449 comments Mod
That's great Judy


Susan | 9889 comments Mod
Yes, her withdrawing from society didn't help her granddaughter though, did it?

I believe that Nancy Mitford herself resented the fact that neither she, nor her sisters, went to school. Perhaps this novel also contains a few sly digs at other members of her family too?


message 38: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4542 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "Perhaps this novel also contains a few sly digs at other members of her family too? ..."

I think that's highly probable, Susan, though I don't know very much about the Mitfords!

A very minor point, but does anyone have any ideas about why Eugenia's horse is called Vivian Jackson? I've looked this up but haven't found anybody who seems to fit.

While checking another reference, I came across an interesting article about Debo:

https://www.tatler.com/article/the-la...


message 39: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4542 comments Mod
I have now finished the book and am reading the introduction by Charlotte Mosley (Diana Mitford's daughter-in-law), which says that Lady Chalford is loosely based on Lady Redesdale, mother of the Mitford sisters.


Susan | 9889 comments Mod
I suspected as much, Judy. I have read a biography of the Mitfords some time ago and it was fascinating. They were an extraordinary family.


message 41: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4542 comments Mod
I was surprised to see from the introduction that Nancy briefly belonged to the British Union of Fascists, to support Diana, and had a row with Evelyn Waugh about it.

But, although this is frothy comedy rather than real satire, I think there is enough there to show she was clearly disillusioned with the fascists by the time she wrote this novel. Again according to the introduction, it was toned down by some chapters about "Captain Jack" (Mosley) being cut out, in case he sued!


Susan | 9889 comments Mod
Certainly, after the war, she decided not to re-publish this. What had probably seemed - relatively - harmless, political flirtation, was, undoubtedly, not so in hindsight.


Susan | 9889 comments Mod
https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...

This is an interesting review of the new edition.


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 395 comments I have The Mitford Girls (Mary Lovell) waiting on my TBR pile-is there any buddy read/group read planned for this?


Susan | 9889 comments Mod
I have Take Six Girls: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters Take Six Girls The Lives of the Mitford Sisters by Laura Thompson on Audible and I think The Mitford Girls The Biography of an Extraordinary Family by Mary S. Lovell The Mitford Girls: The Biography of an Extraordinary Family was the one I read.

There is no plan, at the moment, for a Buddy read of a Mitford biography. Would you like to run one, Lady? Any member can suggest Buddy Reads.

Our current list of books looks like this:

February 2019

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (Group read - Humour)
Wigs On The Green by Nancy Mitford (Mod Read)
Mid-Feb - Frost in May by Antonia White (Buddy read)
Mid-Feb - The Road Through The Wall by Shirley Jackson (Buddy read)

March 2019

Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson (Group read - 1990s)
Fatherland by Robert Harris (Mod Read)
Mid-March - I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (Buddy read)
Mid-March - A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (Buddy read)

April 2019

Jambusters: The Women's Institute at War 1939-1945 by Julie Summers (Group read - WW2)
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (Mod Read)
Mid-April - The Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins (Buddy read)
Mid-April - Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner (Buddy Read)

June 2019

Mid-June - Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman (Buddy read)

May is fairly free, if you would like to suggest it for then? We are keen to encourage members to suggest,and run, discussions too.


message 46: by Nigeyb (last edited Feb 04, 2019 12:51AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb | 9449 comments Mod
Lady Clementina wrote: "I have The Mitford Girls (Mary Lovell) waiting on my TBR pile-is there any buddy read/group read planned for this?"

I read it back in 2013 Lady C.

As Susan says, you can set up a buddy read if you feel inspired, or ask one of the Moderators to do it for you.

Whilst I wouldn't reread it I would happily participate in a discussion. The Mitfords are an endlessly fascinating bunch.

The Mitford Girls: The Biography of an Extraordinary Family is well worth a read. Mary S. Lovell does an extraordinary job of condensing down the lives of the Mitford girls, their parents, their brother, and numerous partners, children, grandchildren, and various other notable relatives, all of which takes place against some of the most momentous historical moments of the twentieth century. In a sense the family's story mirrors that of the century they lived in.

Here’s my review




Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 395 comments Nigeyb wrote: "Lady Clementina wrote: "I have The Mitford Girls (Mary Lovell) waiting on my TBR pile-is there any buddy read/group read planned for this?"

I read it back in 2013 Lady C.

As Susan says, you can ..."

That sounds good. May suits me. I hope others will join in.


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 395 comments Nigeyb wrote: "Lady Clementina wrote: "I have The Mitford Girls (Mary Lovell) waiting on my TBR pile-is there any buddy read/group read planned for this?"

I read it back in 2013 Lady C.

As Susan says, you can ..."

Great review


Nigeyb | 9449 comments Mod
Thanks Lady C. I will get it added to the list of buddy reads later.


Nigeyb | 9449 comments Mod
Lady Clementina wrote: "That sounds good. May 2019 suits me (for a buddy read of The Mitford Girls: The Biography of an Extraordinary Family). I hope others will join in. "

Nigeyb wrote: "Thanks Lady C. I will get it added to the list of buddy reads later."

All done. Here's to another great discussion.....

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

The Mitford Girls: The Biography of an Extraordinary Family is also known as The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family




« previous 1 3
back to top